Protesters plan to shut down I-490 this weekend

A group of protesters say they’re going to shut down Interstate 490 this weekend.

The shutdown is scheduled to occur this Sunday at 2:00 pm in Rochester, New York, the Facebook event states.

According to the Facebook event the group is protesting because, “Rochester police refused to have a simple conversation with us about releasing inmates with nonviolent misdemeanors, so we are going to SHUT IT DOWN. Other cities have done this and it has really been an impactful way to protest and bring awareness to Black Lives Matter issues…We won’t stop until more money is spent on Black neighborhoods instead of police weaponry, equipment, and unused vehicles!!!.”

The group is scheduled to meet up at the MLK park. They say they will be making an “undisclosed” route to the highway.

The group’s Facebook page says that medics will be on hand, and they will be handing out water and electrolytes.

“We will have a team of highly dedicated and extremely organized protesters leading this march and our primary goal is safety,” the group states.

Republican lawmakers in the state have called on law enforcement to come up with a plan ahead of the protest to keep protesters and motorists safe.

“It’s always better to be proactive than reactionary. We want to ensure there’s a plan in place and that there is mutual safety for all involved,” said Karla Boyce, county legislator and chairwoman of the Monroe County Public Safety Committee.

Legislators sent an open letter to County Executive Bello and Sheriff Baxter regarding the matter. The text of that letter can be read below:

(The letter contains some strong language)

Dear County Executive Bello and Sheriff Baxter:

I think we can all agree that public safety is paramount for all residents of Monroe County. At this week’s meeting of the County Legislature, we heard from numerous individuals present at the June 13th Black Lives Matter protest in the Village of Hilton where a vehicle struck a protester. Every account from the event, including a statement from the victim herself, describes an agitated and malicious motorist striking an individual with their vehicle and leaving the scene. Fortunately, the victim herself described her injuries as minimal. However, make no mistake – if not for luck, this incident could have been tragic.

If a near-tragic incident such as this can happen in a small village, it gravely concerns us to think about the potential danger that exists at the planned Interstate 490 shutdown/protest scheduled for this weekend. In case you are not aware, there is a call to action circulating social media for protestors to shut down Interstate 490 on Sunday, July 19th, at 2 pm.” In one Facebook group, entitled, “Shut it down! Highway shutdown!,” the event description states the following:

The purpose of this letter is not to pass judgment on whether such a demonstration is appropriate, but rather to ensure there is a plan to provide for the mutual safety of protesters and motorists. There cannot be a repeat of the June 13th Hilton incident, nor can we add to the list of the already 66 incidents of cars driving into protesters from May 27th – July 6th as documented by the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats.

Executive Bello & Sheriff Baxter July 16, 2020 Page 2 of 3

As members of the Monroe County Legislature, in the interest of public safety, we request that you answer the following questions and publicly share the safety plan for this event.

1. Have protest organizers been in contact with Monroe County or the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) regarding their plans? 2. Have organizers been given any permits or authorizations to allow this protest to take place? 3. What is the average number of vehicles that travel through the affected section of Interstate 490 on a Sunday afternoon? 4. Will the County Executive declare a State of Emergency for civil unrest? And if so, will that give the County the authority to shut down Interstate 490? 5. Does Monroe County or MCSO have the authority to preemptively shut down Interstate 490 in advance of the protest? 6. Has Monroe County or MCSO had conversation with the City of Rochester or Rochester Police Department concerning planning or coordination for the protest? 7. Which law enforcement agency will have primary jurisdiction, and who will serve as Indictment Commander? 8. Is a special MCSO detail being assembled to specifically respond to this protest, and if so, how many deputies will be assigned and what other tactical resources are being assigned? 9. What orders will be given to law enforcement if individuals enter Interstate 490 with the intent to shut down traffic? Will protestors be arrested upon entering the Interstate or allowed to assemble peacefully? 10. Will there be detours posted in advance of the planned shutdown? 11. What signage, including but not limited to variable-message signs, will be used to inform motorists of the protest, what will be the message, and when will display of signage begin.

Once again, we believe the safety of both protesters, motorists, and law enforcement is of the utmost importance. Right here in Monroe County and across the Nation, we have seen the negative results when leaders are reactionary rather than proactive. Please be sure that a plan is in place to ensure the mutual safety of all involved.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and response to our inquiry.

On Tuesday, Rochester Police tweeted, “Mayor Warren & Police Chief @LaRonSingletary announce new efforts to curb recent city violence. ‘I will not tolerate the lawlessness of those who act selfishly & without regard for their neighbors. I will do all I can to prevent tragedy from destroying the lives of our families.'”

They announced a citywide curfew of 11:00 pm for gatherings of 5 or more.